If your organization does not manage absence, then there is likely to be a high cost in operational and financial terms. It is important that managers introduce an efficient absence management system to drive down absenteeism, and prevent it as much as possible.
Absence can be managed in a number of different ways, and the culture of your organization will have a significant impact on this. You are never going to achieve absence at a zero level, as people will get sick and need time off. What you want to achieve is the best balance of providing support for sick employees, and providing encouragement to achieve maximum attendance.
Absence Needs To Be Monitored And Measured
You cannot manage what you don’t measure. There are a number of ways that you can monitor absence, and you should keep electronic records of all absence information so that analysis can be performed.
Any absence manager process should monitor both planned and unplanned absences. Employees should all be asked to complete a form to record planned and unplanned absences. A planned absence would include annual vacations and appointments with dentists and doctors. There will be other situations where an employee will need planned time off, and the system needs to be able to properly capture this.
If an employee is sick or has some kind of emergency then this would be classified as an unplanned absence. Once the employee returns to work, they would need to complete a form to explain the unplanned absence and provide a reason for it.
The introduction of this kind of monitoring and measurement should have a positive impact on absenteeism straight away. The employees will know that all absences are being recorded and that explanations will need to be provided for unplanned absences.
Employees Must Report Unplanned Absence
Your organization must implement a process for reporting an unplanned absence. Every employee should contact their manager immediately if they cannot attend work, and explain the reason for this. All employees must follow this procedure regardless of rank. If an employee is incapable of calling, then it must be acceptable for another person to call in for them.
A phone call must be made, and sending text messages or leaving messages with others is not good enough. A time period should also be set. The rule could be that an employee must call in their unplanned absence within the first hour of their normal starting time. This will allow for contingency planning.
The unplanned reporting procedure should be explained thoroughly to all employees, and they should receive a written copy of the procedure. It should be a mandatory procedure that will have severe consequences if it is not followed, such as the recording of a disciplinary offense.
Interview Employees When They Return
As part of the unplanned reporting procedure, a formal interview should be conducted by the manager and the employee when they return to work. The reasons for the unplanned absence have to be discussed, and their previous unplanned absences reviewed.
The manager needs to establish whether any work situation caused the employee to suffer from stress or any kind of harassment. A plan to reduce any unplanned absence in the future can be discussed and agreed upon. Interviews should be recorded. Some will say that this is a drain on management time, but it will provide useful insights into employee health problems and work-related issues.
What Are The Absence Records Telling You?
It is important that absence records are analyzed for positive or negative trends. Any initiative to reduce absenteeism should be analyzed through these records to monitor how effective these initiatives are.
The clearer you are about what needs to be recorded by the absence management system, the better the reporting will be. All absences must be recorded and separated into planned and unplanned. If it is an unplanned absence then a reason must be recorded.
The system must be able to report on patterns of absence. Unplanned absences on a Monday are very common, and Friday absences can be an issue too. It is also important to record the cost of absenteeism. Any sick pay, overtime pay to cover absences or the employment of temporary staff should be recorded.
Management needs to know whether absenteeism is trending upwards or downwards. The system must be able to report this. Managers should be able to obtain reports for their own teams for review.
Any initiatives to reduce absences should have a financial impact. Implementation of these initiatives will carry a cost, and this needs to be justified by reducing the overall cost of absenteeism. The system should support this, and be able to provide cost reports to managers.
Take Action On The Information Reported
There is little point in analyzing employee absence records if appropriate follow-up action is not taken. If an employee is having a lot of unplanned absences on a Monday, then the manager should inform the employee that their absences are being monitored. This alone should reduce the number of Monday absences.
Long-term absences need to be managed. A reasonable time frame needs to be agreed upon (e.g. 6-8 weeks) where a manager can request that the employee provide consent for their doctor to provide a full medical report so that the degree of the problem can be understood and a return to work time be predicted.
If an employee does not take their planned leave entitlement for the year then this needs to be investigated. Proper rest and relaxation are important, and employees should be reminded to schedule annual leave periods each year.
Some employees will be taking a lot of planned leave to attend appointments with medical professionals. If this is excessive, then further investigation will be required through a discussion with the employee to see if there are any underlying medical problems.
Management can take proactive measures to drive down the level of absenteeism in their organization. Ideas here include:
- A bonus payment to employees that is linked to attendance
- The appointment of a doctor who will perform routine medical examinations
- Workplace health education
- Discounted or free membership to a local gym
- Fitness sessions each lunchtime
- Healthy eating options in the staff restaurant